Tesla Model 3 – What Can It Tow?


Hi, I’m Chris. About Me

The Tesla Model 3 was first launched on to the market in 2017 as Tesla’s first attempt at a more affordable mass-market electric car after their earlier/more expensive vehicles the original Roadster, Model S and the Model X. The Tesla Model 3 like all Tesla vehicles is a 100% BEV (Battery Electric Vehicle). Below I’ll discuss and reference the various Model 3 versions and I’ll also discuss its towing capabilities and predicted/estimated towing range. Currently, the Tesla Model 3 has no official US towing capacity, though the Model 3 does have a rated towing capacity in Europe of 2,000 pounds (up to 1,000 kg).

Tesla Model 3
Currently, the Tesla Model 3 has no official US rated towing capacity: Image – Tesla.com

Key Tesla Model 3 Specs

  • Official Towing Capacity – Currently None (For The US)
  • Availabiity – Now
  • Price – Starting $37,990 (Standard Range Plus) > $54,990 (Performance)
  • EPA Range – 250 miles (Standard Range Plus) > 322 miles (Performance)
  • Estimated Towing Range (50%) – 125 miles (Standard Range Plus) > 161 miles (Performance)
  • Maximum Charge Rate – 250 kW (V3 Tesla Supercharger)

Tesla Model 3 HP & Torque

  • Standard Range Plus – RWD with 283 HP and 307 b-ft of torque
  • Long Range – AWD with 346 HP and 376 lb-ft of torque
  • Performance – AWD with 450 HP and 471 lb-ft of torque

Tesla Model 3 Towing Capabilities

When the Tesla Model 3 launched in 2017 CEO Elon Musk stated a towing hitch would be made available for the Model 3. As Tesla was the first to market with a pure electric tow car the Model X, many predicted the tow hitch accessory would be coming to the Model 3 sooner rather than later. However, the years passed by, and no tow hitch for the Model 3 has been made available to US customers upon ordering the vehicle or as an official retrofit upgrade.

In 2019 the Model 3 was released in the UK and in the rest of Europe, and as part of the online configurator, a tow hitch option was made available. However, as of yet the official Tesla tow hitch is still not available to US customers. In terms of towing capacity on the UK version of the Tesla website, the Model 3 was originally rated at 910kg (2,006 lbs). However, that was only for the Standard Range Plus and Long Range versions with either 18″ Aero or 19″ Sport wheels. No tow hitch option was made available for the Tesla Model 3 Performance with the 20″ Performance wheels.

Since the Tesla Model 3 was first launched in the UK the rated towing capacity of the Model 3 Standard Range Plus and Long Range is now rated slightly higher at 1,000kg (2,204lbs). However, there is still no official US tow rating for Model 3. Though that hasn’t stopped several individuals in the US from modifying their Tesla Model 3 for towing.

Tesla Model 3 Aftermarket Tow Hitch Install

Back in the summer of 2018 Zack of the YouTube channel JerryRigEverything along with fellow YouTuber Ben Sullins produced a video showing the DIY install of the EcoHitch from Torklift Central. The collaboration entailed Zack supervising and advising on the installation of the tow hitch with Ben being the brave soul to volunteer his Tesla Model 3 for the project. Remember, the US version of the Model 3 at that time and still to this day does not have an official towing capacity. Therefore, Ben may be taking on some risk to the warranty of the vehicle. Something to bear in mind if you wish to consider an aftermarket tow hitch for a Tesla Model 3.

A DIY install of an aftermarket Tesla Model 3 tow hitch

As you can see in the video above, the installation of the EcoHitch does involve the complete removal of the rear bumper, rear lights and crash bar. Before the EcoHitch could be fitted a hole needed to be cut into the bottom of the bumper to allow the hitch receiver to exit under the bumper. The actual tow ball is removable and attaches to the receiver when required via a pretty hefty bolt. The EcoHitch for the Tesla Model 3 is rated at 2,000 lbs, hence it matches the capacity of the official Tesla tow hitch fitted to European Model 3s. The tongue weight limit is 300 lbs which should be more than sufficient for any trailer up to a 2,000 lb capacity.

It should be noted, the video above purely focuses on the mechanical installation of the tow hitch, no electrical installation of a wiring harness was completed to connect the Tesla Model 3 to the trailers lights. Hence, before you could legally tow anything on public roads that part of the installation process would also need to be completed.

Tesla Model 3 Towing Test (750LB Trailer)

A bit over a year and a half from the video above, Ben Sullins decided to do an on-road towing test with his Tesla Model 3 fitted with the EcoHitch from Torklift Central. Obviously as stated above, to make Ben’s Tesla Model 3 legal to tow on the public highway a wiring harness was fitted to operate the lights on the back of the trailer. In the video below, Ben first discusses the efficiency of his Tesla Model 3 when not towing at 78%. Which translates to an electrical consumption of 311 Watt Hours (Wh) per mile.

Now, its important to note as Ben does state in his video, this efficiency rating is not universal, it will vary from person to person, and will also vary depending on the terrain the cars is driving (hills etc) and weather conditions. However, from my understanding, around a 78% efficiency rating (when not towing) is pretty typical.

Ben’s Tesla Model 3 towing test with a 750 lb camping trailer

In terms of real-world range that 78% efficiency roughly translates to 253 miles in the Tesla Model 3 Performance with a 100% efficiency producing around 325 miles. Therefore, for the lower specification Model 3 versions, the real-world range would obviously be even lower. So what happened in Ben’s towing test to the efficiency/real-world range? Well, check out the video above, but I’ll also provide a quick summary below.

Tesla Model 3 Towing Efficiency/Real World Range Results

Ben found that towing the 750 lb camping trailer resulted in an efficiency rating of 49%, which results in a real-world towing range with that particular trailer of around 160 miles. This result falls in line with the ‘general rule’ of towing with an EV, to expect a roughly 50% reduction in range from the stated maximum range of the vehicle.

Towards the end of the video, Ben discusses his friend’s experiences with towing with the larger/more capable Tesla Model X and him experiencing roughly triple the energy consumption towing a 3,000 lb trailer. I’ll get more into that in my separate Tesla Model X towing post. However, the quick point to make on that is that it was not only a much heavier trailer but much taller. Aerodynamics makes a significant impact on an electric cars range at higher speeds. Hence, towing a large/boxy trailer will have an even more significant impact on a reduction in efficiency/real-world range.

Predicted Range & Charging Infrastructure

Ben does mention two very important points though that I’ll briefly discuss here and get much more into in later posts. As of writing this article, no Tesla, even the Model Y/X which can official tow will give you an accurately predicted range when towing. The reason being, the car does not know the weight of the trailer or how aerodynamic it is, so it is not currently able to produce an accurate predicted towing range. Though I expect there to be a solution for this in the future.

Secondly, even with Tesla’s charging infrastructure, which is currently by far the most widespread and offers the fastest charging speeds, towing large/heavy loads with an electric tow car is a challenge. Therefore, towing a large/heavy load with a none Tesla vehicle currently will be even more of a challenge. Again, I’m going to discuss this more in future posts. However, as Ben does point out, for the Model 3, towing in most cases will be short journeys with small/low weight trailers. Hence, the predicted range/charging issue when towing should not be as significant.

InsideEVs Tesla Model 3 Towing Guide

Filmed in early 2020 this is another example of a Tesla Model 3 fitted with the EcoHitch towing a small trailer. Now, in the earlier video above from Zack of JerryRigEverything the rear bumper needed to be cut to allow the installation of the EcoHitch later Model 3s has a removable plastic panel. As Tesla officially rates the Model 3 to tow in Europe they are just fitting the same rear bumper on all Model 3s. The benefit being, it makes the installation of the EcoHitch on US Model 3’s a neater/simpler job.

InsideEVs Tesla Model 3 Towing Test

Though not stated in the video, I would guestimate the trailer its self to weigh around 1,000 lbs and the contents (wheels etc) to weigh around 500 lbs for a total of 1,500lbs. Pulling the trailer the Tesla Model 3 was consuming 650 – 693 Watt Hours (Wh) per mile, hence a bit over double the typical consumption when not towing of 311 Watt Hours (Wh) per mile discussed above.

As seen in the video, as there is no specific towing mode on US Model 3’s Autopilot, the semi-autonomous driving feature, was not disabled. However, under no circumstances should you engage the Autopilot feature on a Tesla Model 3 without a towing mode, as the software is not yet designed to work when towing and it could be extremely dangerous.

Tesla Charing Bay For Cars With Trailers

In the video, they were are able to use a dedicated Tesla charging bay for cars towing trailers. However, as you can see such a bay would only be suitable for a relatively small trailer. Furthermore, the charger was only a V2 (120kW) charger. Model 3 is compatible with V3 (250 kW) Tesla Superchargers. Therefore, the charger used was not utilizing the maximum charge rate of the Model 3.

Towing A Boat/Trailer With The Model 3

I’ve included another video below I’ve come across of the Tesla Model 3 being modified and used for towing in the US, this time with a small boat/trailer weighing 600lbs. Its a very interesting video of the journey and a record of electrical consumption along the journey. However, I believe there is an error with the calculations.

The owner states his Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus normally achieves 190 Watt Hours (Wh) per mile, and towing the car achieved 355 Watt Hours (Wh) per mile. However, the EPA stated consumption for the vehicle is 24 kWh per 100 miles (240 Watt Hours (Wh) per mile). Hence, I think there has been some confusion with the calcs between miles and kilometres, and that could explain the consumption figure error.

Towing a trailer/boat with a Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus

If I multiply the consumption figures above by 1.6 to respresent changing from kilometres to miles the consumption figure not towing would be 304 Watt Hours (Wh) per mile and 568 Watt Hours (Wh) per mile when towing. These figures fall more in line with the EPA figures and other Tesla Model 3 consumption figures referenced above.

You will notice that consumption figure when towing is significantly below the other stated figures in the two other videos above. However, this is not only a lighter trailer, I also believe the sailing boat to be reasonably aerodynamic, hence that helps to get better range/lower consumption when towing.

Tesla Model 3 Features and Reviews

Above I’ve referenced a collection of videos on the unofficial towing capabilities of the Tesla Model 3 in terms of towing range etc. Now let’s look more at the wider features/capabilities of the car, its torque/power output, storage capacity, build quality etc. Please bear in mind, like many cars the Tesla Model 3 will go through various revisions/improvements, some subtle and some more significant. Therefore, please pay attention to which specific version and model year of the Model 3 the reviews below are focused on.

Kelly Blue Book review of a 2019 Tesla Model 3 Performance

The Kelly Blue Book review above is generally very positive on the Tesla Model 3. The general all-round package of the Model 3 in terms of its range to price point was/is one of the market leaders. Cheaper alternatives which may offer a similar range at the point at which the review was made simply don’t offer a vehicle with the technological innovations and user interface that the Model 3 provides.

The large centre screen on the Model 3 controls pretty much all of the operations of the car. For some that can be annoying instead of dedicated buttons. However, due to the many cameras on the Model 3, that large screen is going to come in very handy for visibility when towing/manoeuvring a trailer.

Ben and Jennie Sullins review of their 2018 Tesla Model 3

No, my site is not sponsored by Ben even though I’ve included two other videos above which feature him. I simply feel he produces good, honest, quality content on the Model 3, and importantly he actually owns the car, so he (and his wife Jennie) have long term experience of living with one of the first Tesla Model 3’s which came onto the market.

What may not surprise some people, is early on they experienced several issues with the car in terms of features/build quality that needed to be resolved. However, as stated above, on later year Model 3’s the out of the factory build quality seems to be significantly improved. Anyway, I think Ben’s review of his Tesla Model 3 after 2 years of ownership is well worth a watch.

My Thoughts…

It is a bit odd that as of writing this post the Tesla Model 3 still does not have an official tow rating in the US, though it does in Europe. Then again, the Tesla Model Y is available in the US with an official tow rating of 3,500 lbs. Hence, Tesla may be wishing to promote the Model Y as their entry-level electric tow car instead of the Model 3. That doesn’t really make complete sense, as the Model 3 as you can see above is more than capable of towing small trailers up 2,000 lbs.

Furthermore, as of writing this article, the Tesla Model 3 is actually capable of a faster charging rate on a V3 (250 kW) Tesla Supercharger than most electric cars. What’s going to become very clear to anyone interested in an electric tow car is charge rate along with charger availability is going to be very important. If you lose 50% of your range when towing, getting charge back into that battery as fast as possible is doubly important. And currently, Tesla’s Supercharger network is hands down the most widely available of any high-speed charging network.

Chris

Hi, I’m Chris. I own and write all the content on ElectricTowCars.com. The content above is purely my own personal thoughts/opinions/research and should not be treated as professional advice. I hope you find the content above useful to help you find your future ideal electric tow car or truck.

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